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What You Should Know About Your "Cosmetic" Surgeon And How It Can Help You Make An Informed Decision

Sep 4, 2007
With the barrage of plastic surgery reality shows now on television, more and more people are treating themselves to body-enhancing procedures that they might not have considered in years gone by. These deceptive television programs promising total makeovers often give the impression that deciding to have cosmetic surgery is as simple as buying a new shade of lipstick.

It is important to realize that undergoing surgery is a serious commitment and selecting the right plastic surgeon and facility are your responsibility as the consumer. You must do your homework when making such an important decision.

In many states, any licensed physician may advertise/perform cosmetic surgery without being board-certified in a specialty indicating proper credentials, let alone have any formal training in surgery. Just because a doctor advertises that they are "board-certified" does not mean he or she is certified by a board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

What should you research?

1) Board Certification: There are 24 boards recognized by the ABMS as legitimate boards. Certification by an ABMS-recognized board that is appropriate to your procedure(s) ensures your surgeon has had an appropriate depth of training to properly care for you.

Boards to look for are the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) certification ensuring in-depth plastic surgical training of all areas of the body, the American Board of Otolaryngology for facial procedures, the American Board of Ophthalmology for cosmetic eye procedures and the American Board of Dermatology.

Examples of boards not recognized by the ABMS are The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, The American Board of Laser Medicine and Surgery, and the American Board of Liposuction Surgery. You can verify the legitimacy of a stated board by contacting the ABMS at 866-275-2267 or online at their sites.

2) Hospital Privileges: Regardless of where the surgery is to be performed, the surgeon should have privileges to perform the procedure in an acute care hospital. Ask your surgeon or the professional staff office at the hospital where he or she is credentialed to verify staff privileges.

3) Surgical Facility Accreditation: Facilities should be accredited by a recognized accrediting body, be state licensed or Medicare-certified. You can check this by contacting any of the following organizations: AAAASF: 1-847-949-6058; AAAHC: 1-847-853-6060; or JCAHO: 1-630-792-5000.

4) Surgeon's Experience: Speak with your surgeon about his or her breadth of experience in the procedure(s) you are considering. Membership in professional societies such as the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) or American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) are also key indicators. Membership in either society means a surgeon is ABPS-certified and has significant experience in cosmetic surgery of the face and body.

5) Details of Your Surgery: To be discussed before surgery: your complete medical history including past and current medications; surgical benefits, risks, and alternatives; total cost including surgeon fees, anesthesia, facility and other; surgeon's policy on revisionary procedures; post-surgical care and typical timeline for resuming work/social activities.
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